Detroit police conclude two-year probe into drug unit that led to resignations, retirements

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Detroit — Police Chief James White on Tuesday said a two-year internal affairs probe into alleged corruption in the Detroit Police drug unit has drawn to a close and "we're confident we rooted out the problem."

The Operation Clean Sweep Taskforce, which launched under White's predecessor James Craig, found "numerous incidents of misconduct" and prompted 12 officers to leave the department under investigation. The Wayne County Prosecutor's Office continues to evaluate warrant requests for charges against several of the ex-cops. 

In August 2019, Detroit police internal affairs officers raided the drug unit's offices, uncovering overtime fraud and forgery, false affidavits and perjury in the former Narcotics Section, White noted.

Detroit Police Chief James White thanked partners Tuesday in a two-year corruption probe of the department's drug unit, saying the task force worked to "root out what has been reoccurring issues within the Narcotics (Section) and Major Violations unit."

Craig, the city's former chief who ordered the raid, told The Detroit News in February that the probe had uncovered "a pattern and practice of corruption," including cops filing dozens of false affidavits for search warrants of suspected drug houses, and overtime fraud.

During a press conference Tuesday, White thanked partners in the probe including the FBI, Michigan State Police, Michigan Attorney General's Office and Wayne County Prosecutor's Office. White also praised Craig, who retired in June to make a Republican-run for governor, for his vision in the creation of the task force "to root out what has been reoccurring issues within the Narcotics (Section) and Major Violations unit."

White said it was a "direct and distinct group of individual officers" who were "committing misconduct."

"I want to emphasize that not all DPD members assigned to the Major Violators unit over the past 10 years were engaged in this misconduct," he said. "In fact, the opposite is true."

Based on the investigation, four sergeants, two corporals and two police officers retired. Four other police officers resigned.

The Wayne County Prosecutor's Office is reviewing warrant submissions for eight of the officers that either retired and resigned. No other officers have been implicated since last fall, White added. 

The investigation turned up "administrative or departmental shortcomings," including inadequate supervision, lack of follow-up on warrant submissions and a poor system for case filings, said Christopher Graveline, the department's director of Professional Standards.

"We have already begun to take positive steps to clean up our own processes to ensure that doesn't happen again," Graveline said.

Graveline said search warrant affidavits for the Major Violator Section must go to a deputy chief for review before heading to the prosecutor's office. Lieutenants or officers of a higher rank must be present at every narcotics raid. The practice of releasing felony drug offenders has ceased. Members must do a body-worn camera introduction, stating their purpose on or off duty times. Lastly, all overtime is being managed digitally.

One sergeant, the department calculated, accrued $16,000 worth of fraud based on court appearances from 2016 to 2018. Overtime fraud, which primarily occurred in the spring and summer of 2019, totaled between $10,000-$12,000, Graveline said.

White said those who were entitled to retirement and haven't been charged before will be eligible for their pensions.

Twitter: @SarahRahal_